Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What Does Catman Do?

Years ago when I was new to Unix, I was having trouble understanding the man page for "catman" command. So I asked another engineer, Steve, "What does catman do?" and he said, "It is the capital of Nepal." Heh heh.

Last week I visited Kathmandu for the first time to accompany my son's school basketball team - my son plays in that team - competing in a regional tournament. They won the championship competing against schools from Delhi, Kathmandu, Colombo, Bombay, Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and Murree. Congrats Tigers!

Kathmandu was interesting, but also raised troubling questions. They have a huge tourism industry, but where do the tourist dollars go? Talking to some locals, I got the impression the people are very poor. But incredibly nice, friendly and they liked Bangladesh a lot. A lawyer I met during lunch at a local hole-in-the-wall told me that the years of Maoist insurgency had really drained the economy.

I was in KTM the whole time, but if you go on a trek, for $30-$50/day/person you get guide+porter, lodging at "tea houses" and food. What kind of food? The guide shows you a menu and you choose what you want to eat and they cook or order it for you. Wow! Luxury in the mountains. Far cry from the gorp-and-freeze-dried sustenance I endured while backpacking in the Sierra Nevada.

Here is what really bugs me. So these mountains are their country. Yet, the poor Nepalese do the grunt work while foreign tourists explore the mountains like lords. Hardly seems fair, does it?

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